Taming Windows 8


If you have been shopping for a new computer lately, you know that Windows 7 is getting hard to find. Windows 8 is installed on most of the new PCs in the stores. If you don't like change, then this is not a good thing for you because Microsoft decided to remove the Start button and make some other user interface changes. The Start Menu has been replaced with the new Metro interface and music and movie files now open with full screen apps instead of the old Windows Media Player and other applications you are used to.

Microsoft has tried to go where no operating system has gone before by building one common user interface for all your devices. Your phone, tablet and PC can all look the same with Windows 8. Apple devices all have a very similar interface, but Microsoft was trying to take it a step further and make them the same. This explains the new Metro interface, but Microsoft has gotten so much negative feedback about the changes that rumors say Windows 8.1 will be released later this summer with a shiny new (or is it old?) Start button.

Some have compared Windows 8 to Windows Vista, but I strongly disagree. Windows 8 has a learning curve, but once you get past that, it is the fastest performing Windows operating system yet and so far for me, is very stable.

It is important to note that Windows 8 is not your only option. You can still buy PCs running Windows 7. Preactive IT Solutions never switched our new PC builds to Windows Vista. We built our PCs with XP until Windows 7 was available. We will likely keep building Windows 7 PCs as long as Microsoft will allow us to. We are taking a wait and see approach on Windows 8.1.

If you already have Windows 8, here are some things you can do to make it a little less frustrating:

  • Open Metro from the keyboard by pressing the keyboard Start key. This is the key two to the left of the space bar. This may be easier for you than moving the mouse to the lower left corner and clicking the Metro icon that appears.
  • Change Default Apps - Windows 8 has full screen Music, Video and Photo apps that occupy the entire screen and hide the taskbar. To get around this, open Metro and type "Default". When it appears, open "Default Programs". Now click on "Set your default programs". On the left side of this screen, click on "Windows Media Player", then click on "Set this program as default". Do the same thing for "Windows Photo Viewer" and "Internet Explorer".
  • Optimize Metro - In the Metro interface, right-click on icons you do not use and click on "unpin from Start". You may want to do this for the white Internet Explorer icon as this is another of the full screen apps. You can also drag icons around to organize the Metro screen to your liking.
  • Learn Keyboard Shortcuts - There are several shortcut keys in Windows. Hold down the Start key and tap "D" to show the Desktop. Start key + "E" opens Windows Explorer. Start key + "L" locks the computer.
  • Pin icons to Taskbar - Right-click on frequently used programs in Metro and click "Pin to Taskbar". This will place an icon for that program on the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen for easy access.
  • If you simply MUST have a Start button in Windows 8, google for a program called "Classic Shell". It will put a Start button in Windows 8 for you. I tried it, but did not think it was as good as the original.

Hopefully these tips will make your transition to Windows 8 go a little more smoothly. Help spread the word about Preactive IT Solutions by sharing this article with your friends.